What motivates Keith Parrish to leave his farm and his wife and travel to Washington, D.C., can be summed up in one word: compassion.
For most of this year, Martha Parrish has paid what she considers a small price of doing without her husband for a few days each week in hopes that he'll help “bring home a payday for everybody in the end.”
Keith Parrish has been involved in grassroots politics, pounding the halls of Congress working for a tobacco buyout bill.
The calls range across the board. “Mostly, the farmers are just begging for information,” Martha says. “You know it's real when the farmer calls you for information or to tell you his perspective,” Keith says. “You'll fight a little harder.”
Back home in Harnett County, N.C., Martha pulls out a photo album and relates stories of anguished fellow tobacco farmers.
The stories Martha relates remind him of what he's been fighting for.
“One farmer told me over the phone that the sheriff had already come up to his house and served the repossession papers,” Martha says. “Later his wife and children left him.
“I've seen a farmer standing behind his truck go down on his knees, reduced to tears as he heard the auctioneer say the word, ‘Sold,” Martha says.
“One farmer laid all his hopes on the buyout passing ‘soon.’ He died of a heart attack.”
Soon didn't come soon enough.